When Prince Harry recently spoke about his own mental health in the wake of his mother’s death, I wondered if the therapist and writer Julia Samuel had been a major influence on him, and therefore the nation. She was a close friend of Diana, Princess of Wales, and in 2013 she was asked to be godmother to Prince George.

When we meet for a coffee one sunny morning in a café in west London, she is too discreet to discuss the Prince’s decision to talk openly about his own grief, except in general terms to salute his courage.

“His intervention has helped raise awareness and it’s been an important springboard for conversation. Young men in particular need to acknowledge their needs,” she says.

Samuel’s book Grief Works, published to acclaim earlier this year, has in turn been a springboard for the country to discuss bereavement and death, which in Samuel’s view are among the last great taboos. Her wisdom on loss and how best to cope with it has never seemed more timely after the events last week on London Bridge.

“Five hundred thousand people die each year, but people mistakenly believe that, thanks to modern medicine, we will win against death. The taboo is because we are afraid.”

Though grief is the most intense pain there is, we will do almost anything to avoid the pain. “We run away from it, from our own grief, and that of others,” Samuel says – and it’s the exact opposite of what we should do.

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